The name Curlswood, or Curleswood, evolved over the centuries from the Old English ‘Crudes wudu’, meaning Cruds Wood. Crud was the surname of a tenant family who lived there in the 13th century.
Over the centuries several variations of the original name were used in documents and on maps with Crudeswod; Curlswood; Curleswood Park: Turleswood Park: Crowds Wood Park, Charles Wood Park and Curleswood Park being but a few. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was generally referred to as Park Farm with the Park suffix as a reminder of its use as a deer, or hunting, park by the Archbishop and other occupiers.
Much of the farms original acreage is now covered by the village of Aylesham, but until the late 1920’s or early 1930’s the farm house and its associated buildings stood just to the west of the junction of the present Cornwallis Avenue and Ratling Road, and were demolished as Aylesham expanded. The open area from the railway station to the Market Square in Aylesham was once the farms “great”, or main, field.
The Kilwardby Survey of 1273-74 contains the manorial accounts for most of the Archbishop Kilwardby of Canterbury’s demesne manors in South-East England; a demesne was a holding directly under the control of the lord of the manor providing him with both food and income. The following extracts refer in part to Crudeswood (Curleswood) as a demesne of the Manor of Wingham.
Amercements, farms, and pannage*:-
“And of 25s from John Dene, the reeve, for a false presentment upon the account and of 12s for the farm of a curtilage and of 9s for the farm of the same in the previous year and of 18s for pannage in the Weald, the tithe having been deducted and of 24s for pannage in Crudswood, the tithe having been deducted and of 18s for the pannage of Wlveche, the tithe having been deducted and of £11 13s 4d from wood at Sandhurst sold.
Wood, item underwood sold.
And of 59s 6d for 18 [acres -omitted] of underwood in Wlveche sold and of 10s for 3 acres of underwood at Crudswood and of 34s for 8 acres, half a perch of underwood sold there“.
*Ammercement was a money fine levied in the manor or hundred court for a misdemeanour and Pannage was a tax paid for the right to graze pigs in woodland.
In 1282 Nonington became one of the four separate parishes making up the College of Wingham. Shortly after this Archbishop, Pecham commissioned a survey of his possessions. Crudes Wood, as Curleswood Park was then known, was part of the Cotland of the College, cotland being an inferior type of land tenure, usually in wood land, and with some rights such as grazing attached. There appear to be two local woodland areas of the manor of Wingham, one was at Crudes, consisting of some 244 acres, and another at Wolnuth (Woolege Woods near Woolege Green) extending to 296 ½ acres.
Curleswood was bordered to the east by the Wingham manors North Nonington holdings and by its holdings at Ackholt to the south-east.
A transfer of land in 1425 records:“Akholte, June 21, 3 Hen. VI. (1425) John Helar, son of John Helar, late of Akholte in the par. of Nonynton, Kent, grants to Thomas Hunte parcarius* of Cruddyswood a croft** of 5 acres with appurtenances at Akholte between the common way of the vill of Akholte on N. and land of Thomas Hopedey on E. and Court land of Lordship of Akholte on S. and W. Warranty against all men. Witnesses: John Orlyston, John Marchaunt, Thomas Hopedey, John Cook, John Veryar’, Gervase Dudeman, Richard Guodhyewe. Thomas Lewar’, John Bery, Richard Beniamyn and others”
*A parker or park-keeper; a pinder; a foldkeeper. A pinder was an employee of a landowner who would go around and collect the rental dues from the tennants on the land. If the tennants could not pay in money, the pinder would take livestock in lieu of payment and put them in the pinfold until they could pay.
Also, the pinder would catch any livestock that had got loose and put them in the pinfold and would charge a price to the animals owner to get it back.
**A small enclosed field or pasture near a house. A small farm, especially a tenant farm.
Thomas Hunte’s profession, parcarius, indicates that Curleswood was by now a hunting park. Further indication of this is when Edward Oxenden de Dene, the eldest son of Thomas Oxenden de Dene of Dene near Wingham was appointed Warden of Cruddeswood in 1501. The Oxenden family originally held Oxenden, or Oxney, another of the Archbishop’s manors about a mile and a half to the south-east of Cruddeswood.
The College of Wingham was broken up during the reign of Henry VIII but the estate was retained by the Archbishop and leased out.
In 1604 Charles Wood Parke House was occupied by John Cox.
Edward ffinch, a trustee of the estate of C. Fielding, took the land on a twenty- one year lease at a rent of £ 954. 8/- from about 1758.
In 1763 the lease was surrendered and re-assigned in a document dated March 15th 1763.(EK. Archives Whitfield ref:U373/t36) for the same rent to Sir Brooke Bridges, bart., of Goodnestone.
The lease was for: “all that messuage or tenement called the lodge. And all that land and pasture enclosed by pale and hedge and sometimes therein is mentioned used as a park for deer commonly called Turlswood Park or otherwise Crowds Wood Park situated lying and being in the parish of Nunnington aforesaid in the county of Kent. Containing by estimation two hundred and eighty acres of arable and pasture land”.
Substantial parts of the “deer leap” bank enclosing the estate survive and are still clearly along the old estate boundary with Ratling Court’s land and from the Chapman’s Hill road towards the railway line and beyond into what was the old Aylesham Secondary School’s grounds. A “deer leap” was a bank with an inward facing steep face and a hedge or fence on top designed to stop deer “leaping” over it and escaping.
Various members of the Pepper family, later tenants of the farm in the 19th century, are buried near the rear gate of Nonington church yard. The Archbishop of Canterbury continued to own the estate until it was sold to the Goodnestone estate in the late 19th century. In later years it was known as Old Park Farm.